Hinge-like motions in RNA kink-turns: The role of the second A-minor motif and nominally unpaired bases
Kink-turn (K-turn) motifs are asymmetric internal loops found at conserved positions in diverse RNAs, with sharp bends in phosphodiester backbones producing V-shaped structures. Explicit-solvent molecular dynamics simulations were carried out for three K-turns from 23S rRNA, i. e., Kt-38 located at the base of the A-site. nger, Kt-42 located at the base of the L7/L12 stalk, and Kt-58 located in domain III, and for the K-turn of human U4 snRNA. The simulations reveal hinge-like K-turn motions on the nanosecond timescale. The first conserved A-minor interaction between the K-turn stems is entirely stable in all simulations. The angle between the helical arms of Kt-38 and Kt-42 is regulated by local variations of the second A-minor ( type I) interaction between the stems. Its variability ranges from closed geometries to open ones stabilized by insertion of long-residency waters between adenine and cytosine. The simulated A-minor geometries fully agree with x-ray data. Kt-58 and Kt-U4 exhibit similar elbow-like motions caused by conformational change of the adenosine from the nominally unpaired region. Despite the observed substantial dynamics of K-turns, key tertiary interactions are stable and no sign of unfolding is seen. We suggest that some K-turns are flexible elements mediating large-scale ribosomal motions during the protein synthesis cycle.